Portugal is one of the countries with most accidents per number of inhabitants in Europe, with 59 deaths per thousand inhabitants in 2014, compared to 36 in Spain. This figure places Portugal above the average mortality rate of the European Union, which has 51 traffic fatalities per million inhabitants.
Even so, Portugal is one of several countries - alongside Greece, Spain, Denmark, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania, Italy, Slovenia and the Czech Republic - whose road safety improvement was above the EU average from 2010 to 2014.
In spite of their geographic proximity, Portugal has a long way to go before it improves its road safety enough to catch up to Spain, which holds fifth place globally among countries with the best road safety. One worrying statistic is that in Portugal, traffic accidents are the leading cause of death among adolescents between 15 and 17 years of age.
In November of last year, the 2nd Global Conference on Road Safety was held in Brazil to analyze ways in which to stop this type of tragedy, which causes 1.2 million deaths worldwide every year. Brazil is an emerging nation with one of the highest death rates in the world from traffic accidents and where hardly any road safety policies have been implemented. The Fundación MAPFRE program “Educação Viária é Vital” is one of few initiatives aimed at public school teachers, with the goal of training teachers in road safety education.
Children, the most highly affected
In this context, children are still the most vulnerable group. The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project estimates that 220,000 children and adolescents are killed on roads around the world every year. Also, countries with fewer resources are the worst off due to their limited investment in road safety.
In this article, we provide some advice for reducing the high pedestrian accident rate that many children experience, especially those who "live" on the streets of countries like Portugal and Brazil.
Children as pedestrians
- It is important to be familiar with the physical elements of public roads, such as sidewalks, the roadway and shoulders, as well as the kinds of roads that exist, to understand the dangers that go along with each one.
- Do not walk close to the curb to avoid being run over.
- Animals should not be loose, as they could be hit by a car or frighten other pedestrians.
- Never play near the road.
- Never stand behind parked cars, especially if they are large, as they could run you over when they reverse.
- Be particularly cautious at parking garage entrances and exits.
- Help those who need it: the elderly and individuals with reduced mobility.
- Before stepping out into the road, pay attention to the speed and distance of the cars.
- It is best to look LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT with one foot forward, as this makes it easier to start walking.
- If children are wearing a backpack, they should wear it correctly and never hanging from one shoulder, as there is a risk that they could lose their balance.
- Whenever possible, cross the street at a crosswalk: stop on the sidewalk, not in the road, and show your intention to cross by looking at the cars and their drivers. If it is a one-way street, cross on the farthest side of the crosswalk from the stopped cars. If it is a two-way street, make sure that the cars from both directions are going to stop.
- If crossing without a marked crosswalk, always do so from the place with the best visibility and anticipate the path of the vehicles from both directions. Avoid this situation by trying to cross at a crosswalk.
- Never walk between cars due to the great danger this poses.
- If crossing a road with a traffic light, wait for the walk signal to turn green and for the cars to stop. When the walk signal starts to flash, that means that the light is about to turn red and cars will have the right of way, so you should not cross.
- You must pay attention when walking on a road without a sidewalk: always walk on the left side of the road so you can see the cars coming toward you, walk in a single file line and use the shoulder. If it is nighttime, wear reflective clothing. Remember that walking on highways or crossing them on foot is prohibited.